Yesterday afternoon a friend was looking for mule deer on their family ranch in a rugged part of Gove County.
He wasn’t surprised to see a herd of antelope lazily grazing along. When he looked back a few minutes later the herd was running in a panic and one was down and dying or dead.
Atop the 40-pound fawn was possibly Kansas’ most awesome predator.
Mountain lion? – Nope. Bobcat?-Nope. Coyote? – Nope.
Sitting squarely atop the antelope, and feasting away, was a big golden eagle.
Pretty cool but not too surprising.
Unlike bald eagles, which earn a lot of their living eating dead things or grabbing fish, golden eagles make their way through life mostly killing and eating mammals. Prairie dogs, cottontails and jackrabbits are common dinners but they can go big if they get the chance.
A little Googling showed several sites that talked of golden eagles eating small calves, lambs and fawns of antelope and deer.
A Wyoming study even documented golden eagles killing adult antelope. That’s a major accomplishment for a 10 to 15-pound bird. Click here to read the study.
Researchers watched goldens chase and attack antelope on several occasions, sometimes having to try several attacks before succeeding.
The big question that’s not totally answered is how the golden eagle actually kills the deer or antelope. They don’t seem to go for the throat, like cats. It’s possible their talons cause enough spinal damage to cause paralysis.
It appears that like coyotes and wolves, they simply grab on tight and eat the animal to death. One study mentioned watching an antelope live for about 10 minutes while the eagle ate away.
Disgusting? Nope, it’s nature, not Disney.
In the real world Friend Owl would have eaten Thumper.
Still, a bird killing even a small antelope.Wow!